In his third full year as a New York Ranger, 24-year-old forward Artem Anisimov had his fair share of ups and downs during the 2011-12 season. On some nights he could prove to be a legitimate difference maker for the Blueshirts, while on others he spent most of the game riding the bench because of a costly mistake. Not very much has changed in Anisimov's three years as a Ranger, and if you go back and read his player reviews from the prior two seasons, there's good chance you'll find yourself reading more of the same each time. Good thing? Don't count on it.
The Good: One area of his game that there was definitely improvement in was Anisimov's strength on the puck. In prior years, he was probably the easiest Ranger to bump off the puck while on the forecheck, but to his credit, that was less and less of a problem during 2011-12. I actually thought that Artie was, at times, the team's best forechecker when it came to retrieving loose pucks and battling for possession.
Also, Anisimov has most certainly upgraded his defensive game from when head coach John Tortorella first took over behind the bench here in New York. Artem was never really a consistent liability on defense because he did learn the other side of the puck while down in Hartford, but he had much to pick up on in order to become a more complete player. In that respect, Anisimov took some big strides this season.
And despite limited minutes, Ansimov did manage to tie for fourth on the team in scoring during the playoffs.
Oh and he gave us one of the best moments of the year when he sniper-rifled the Tampa Bay Lightning. I had to throw that in there.
The Bad: For the sake of Anisimov's future here in the Big Apple, an eight-point drop-off from last season is something to be concerned about. While he is still young and developing, at this stage of his career Anisimov should be looking to build on his numbers substantially each year as he approaches his prime. Unfortunately that has not been the case, and not only have we not seen an increase in stats, we've seen a decline. With the Rangers being a young core of players looking to improve and grow together, the fact that Artie is not following that trend could become a major issue next summer when he becomes a restricted free agent.
Another thing worth pointing out is that John Tortorella gradually lost more and more trust in Anisimov as this past season progressed. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Anismov was down to about five minutes or less per night, which obviously isn't going to help the whole improvement thing. We've seen the coach's feelings on an individual player translate to less playing time and as a result less production in the past, and if things don't change, that's going to become the case for Anisimov until he is eventually shipped off elsewhere.
Highlight of the Year:
Overall Assessment: As noted above, Anisimov finds himself in a situation where he is a young player struggling to improve while his peers around him are soaring into the spotlight and higher into the lineup. If Artie makes it through this summer without be traded, it is my belief that the 2012-13 season will be his final to prove he deserves to remain a New York Ranger. It's been far too many years of the same from Anisimov, and especially since he is paid nearly $2 million, that's not going to fly with the front office or the coaching staff.
Report Card Grade: C